Statement by Mr. Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs to the Second Committee of the General Assembly
New York, 8 October 2007

Chairperson, Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to congratulate you, Chairperson, and members of the bureau on your election. I would also like to express my sincere appreciation to Ambassador Tiina Intelmann of Estonia and members of the Bureau for their leadership of this Committee during the 61st session.

What an honour for me to address this Committee for the first time as Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs. I have spent more than two decades in multilateral diplomacy, including nine years as an Ambassador to the UN. I know that delegations have a tough job. Our job, in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, is to support you and facilitate your work. My staff and I are here to serve.

Chairperson,

The Second Committee is a major vehicle for advancing towards the internationally agreed development goals, including the MDGs. This UN development agenda covers economic, social, and environmental issues of profound importance to all countries and all people.

The Deputy Secretary-General has provided an overview of the challenges ahead. Allow me to focus on four of the key issues that you will take up this session: the world economy; financing for development and the follow-up to Monterrey; climate change and sustainable development; and the review of UN development cooperation.

First and foremost is the current situation in the world economy, which may pose a risk to global stability and to implementation of the development agenda. The global financial turmoil is still unfolding. While we do not know its outcome, our assessment is that the risks have increased.

Our global growth projection for this year, presented in the UN World Economic Situation and Prospects 2007, remains at 3.4 per cent – a marked slow-down from previous years. We may have to further downgrade our projection for next year, given the recent financial turbulence, as well as weakened growth in the United States.

DESA has repeatedly called attention to the need to address the global imbalances, in a gradual and coordinated way. But unfortunately, no serious action has been taken. And the situation we now face is potentially dangerous. Changes in market sentiments and investor confidence could trigger a hard landing of the dollar and a disorderly adjustment of the global imbalances, threatening prospects for the global economy and future growth.

In recent months, central banks in the major developed countries have prudently adjusted monetary policy. But national policy initiatives alone cannot effectively address the deeper roots of this problem. The global economy desperately needs effective multilateral surveillance for macro-economic policy coordination and collective action, involving all the major players, from developed and developing countries.

The slowing of global growth puts all economies, especially the developing countries at risk. Many of them remain highly dependent on the demand for their products in industrialized countries and on commodity price levels. Any marked decrease in developing countries’ earnings would severely affect resources available for making the necessary investments to achieve the MDGs and the other internationally agreed development goals.

MDG-8 commits the international community to a global partnership for development. Each country takes responsibility for its development, devising national strategies and mobilizing domestic resources. Developed countries provide assistance, and should help, with all other stakeholders, to create an enabling international environment.

The follow-up process to Monterrey is a major mechanism for strengthening this partnership in practice. Two critical opportunities lie ahead, starting with the General Assembly’s High-level Dialogue on Financing for Development later this month. The Dialogue will concentrate on progress made on the six components of the Monterrey Consensus. So far, the overall picture is mixed.

On the positive side, many developing countries, including many of the least developed ones, have achieved growth. Levels of official development assistance have seen some improvement since 2002, including new commitments, such as those made at Gleneagles. But unfortunately, ODA seems to have declined since last year, despite the advent of new donors. Debt relief has also made good progress in a number of cases, but much more needs to be done.

A number of major challenges in implementation remain. More prudent macroeconomic policies and structural adjustments have not always yielded the growth, job creation and increased efficiency in social spending needed to make adequate progress towards the MDGs. Private resource flows have been uneven and are exposing some developing countries to greater risks. Significant challenges remain both in realizing the development dimension of the Doha round of trade negotiations and in putting all low-income countries on a sustainable path to debt repayment. ODA levels still fall far short of targets. We need to ensure sufficient and predictable flows channelled through national budgets. And, unfortunately, there is little progress to report on increasing voice and participation of developing countries in the international financial institutions.

The follow-up conference on financing for development, in Doha in late 2008, gives us a chance to review progress and to get firmly on track, while also addressing new challenges and emerging issues. Let us use the High-level Dialogue to kick-off the preparations and exchange ideas on what concrete actions could be taken there.

Chairperson,

One of the major challenges we face is mounting a global response to climate change. Concerted global action on mitigation and adaptation need enhanced and innovative financing mechanisms and better avenues for transfer of cleaner technologies. With its serious social and economic implications, climate change affects us all. But the poorest communities are the most vulnerable. Building resilience in vulnerable countries, including small island developing states (SIDS) and LDCs, should be a high priority. Our ability to effectively pursue sustainable development will depend on our success in addressing climate change in a timely and concerted way.

This was the view widely expressed in the high-level meeting of the General Assembly convened by the Secretary-General on 24 September. There were also repeated calls to mobilize political will for a global agreement under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. The 13th session of the Conference of Parties, to be held in Bali in December, should be the starting point for intense negotiations to ensure that such an agreement is in force by the end of 2012. I urge this Committee to also send a strong message to Bali.

Chairperson,

The United Nations has made enormous contributions to forging consensus and specific commitments to development. While that work continues, we have moved, decisively, to implementation mode – mobilizing and providing practical support to help translate these commitments into action, at the global, regional, and national levels.

We see this in our global and regional intergovernmental processes. I was especially encouraged by the broad engagement in ECOSOC’s first Annual Ministerial Review. I hope we will see even greater energy injected into the first Development Cooperation Forum in mid-2008.

This year, the Committee takes on the review of UN development cooperation. The Triennial Comprehensive Policy Review serves to establish key guidelines for UN operational activities at the country level. While providing these guidelines, the Committee should endeavour to enhance the capacity of the UN Funds and Programmes to focus on deliverables.

This means addressing four key questions. First, aligning the UN system’s activities at the country level with national sustainable development strategies and the internationally agreed development goals. Second, increasing the effectiveness and coherence of the UN development system. Third, leveraging the comparative advantage of the UN development system in what has become an increasingly competitive environment at the country level. And fourth, increasing accountability, transparency, and efficiency through further simplification and harmonization of procedures.

Chairperson, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I thank you for inviting me today. And I pledge to you my Department’s full support in your important work this session.